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Monday, March 11, 2013

The Story Behind Elmhurst College's Online AP Human Geography Certificate Program

Dr. Rich Schultz, Ph.D., C.P.G., OTC is an Associate Professor in Geography & Geosciences, Director, Elmhurst College Online GIS Certificate Program and Director, Online AP Human Geography (APHG) Graduate Certificate Program at Elmhurst College in Illinois. I contacted him in that last capacity to learn more about the APHG program. I wrote about it last week and Dr. Schultz left a detailed comment. In the interview below, he answers a few specific questions about the history and impetus for this new certificate.

Ignite Education (IE): What was the spark for the development of this certificate program? How did evolve from that point to the current rollout?
Dr. Rich Schultz (RS): AP Human Geography (APHG) teachers' demands are the impetus. They need professional development because many are asked to teach APHG on a whim to keep up with the rising demand for offering AP courses at high schools. They are provided with little notice (almost none in some cases) to develop and teach APHG in future terms. Many of these teachers have never taken geography classes in their educational past, so they are left scrambling. Our idea is to educate the teachers so they can properly educate their students. If the teachers develop a real interest in geography and spatial concepts, their passion will be contagious and we are hopeful their students will become excited about geography as well, especially in terms of a future career.

IE: I see that National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE) members receive a special discount when pursuing the certificate; that’s great. How was NCGE involved with the development of the program? Will it be in the future? Do you have/are you looking for other partners? 
RS: NCGE declined to be involved in the initial stages of development, and rightly so because they felt they could not give adequate attention to it with the likes of the Geography Standards, 2nd ed., rolling out and the RoadMap Project under their auspices. So, Dr. Joseph Kerski (then NCGE President and the real impetus for this initiative) and I took the ball and ran with it. NCGE has partnered with us most recently to provide their support and we are thankful for their involvement. We are seeking other partnerships as the APHG teachers need all the support they can get. We aim to bring these teachers the best possible experience in learning how to teach APHG and to infuse spatial concepts into their teaching.

IE: How are AP Human Geography instructors typically (currently) trained? 
RS: If they have a traditional background from taking geography courses in college/universities, that is their "training". Many are social studies teachers or history teachers and their knowledge in geography comes from that. However, some APHG teachers have never taken a geography course before, which is where we, as a professional development program, step in.

IE: What indicators convinced Elmhurst there would be demand for such a certificate in the short and long term? For example, is demand for the AP Geography exam rising? Are more schools planning to offer APHG? 
RS: Some of our Advisory Board and faculty members in the program are heavily involved with the College Board and noticed that the trend was very clear that APHG was increasing in demand and more and more schools nationally are offering it, at least over the last eleven years (2001-2012). However, our real encouragement came from the APHG teachers themselves. They really want to learn how to properly teach APHG. They are a passionate group!